‘GIft of blackness’ must be incoporated into liturgy

By The Loquitur staff
February 22, 2001

Approximately 40 harmonizing voices filled the Bruckmann Chapel of St. Joseph during an interactive presentation given by Valerie Lee-Jeter, director of music and liturgy at St. Vincent de Paul Church, on Sunday, Feb. 18.

The presentation, entitled, “The Gift of Blackness: The Contribution of African American music to Catholic Workshop,” featured the Our Lady of Hope Gospel Choir, directed by Tonya Taylor-Dorsey.

Jeter posed the thematic question of her presentation as being, “How do we incorporate the gifts of blackness into the Eurocentric model of the Catholic Liturgy so that it meets people in their `lived conditions’?”

Jeter explained the gifts of blackness as possessing a contemplative spirit, being holistic, joy and of being communitarian.

“The idea is that when we walk through those doors, we lose ourselves to serve the assembly,” Jeter said, explaining the contemplative spirit.

She gave the example that even in slavery, African- Americans knew that God loved them and so they turned their sorrows over to Jesus.

“Being holistic involves the whole body,” Jeter said. “You know we got to clap. We’ve got to move our bodies.”

Commenting on the third gift of blackness, Jeter said, “There is a joy just in being.” She expounded the joy as in being able to know the “suffering servant.”

Jeter said that every group of peoples has known suffering including African-Americans, those from Northern Ireland and those of Jewish decent. “Somehow, we got lucky and we know the suffering servant.”

Jeter personified the fourth gift of blackness, being communitarian, bye saying, “the `I’ in African means `we.'”

Intermittent with Jeter’s talk, Our Lady of Hope Gospel Choir sang songs to exemplify the different gifts of blackness.

Jeter then talked about how to incorporate the gifts of blackness into everyday life.

“You have to know your community,” Jeter said. She stressed that the liturgy is not about serving your culture, rather it is about serving your community.

Jeter then stressed that the liturgy needs to be Catholic. “Our climax is coming to the table to be fed, Jeter said.

Jeter said that the final stage is incorporating the gifts of blackness. “Everything about liturgy should be beautiful,” Jeter said.

Stacey Lawson, a sophomore, attended the workshop. “I think that the interactive presentation was a good eye-opener for me, as a student. I think that if they can get her back on campus that it would be an awesome presentation for the campus to hear.”

Sponsored by campus ministry, the presentation was followed by dinner with the choir. At 7 p.m., the choir joined the Cabrini congregation for Mass.

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The Loquitur staff

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